START improves poststroke aphasia and apraxia (Swann et al., 2023)
Purpose: This prospective, single-blinded, parallel, stratified, randomized clinical trial via telehealth aimed to investigate the impact of Startle Adjuvant Rehabilitation Therapy (START) on aphasia, apraxia of speech (AOS), and quality of life in individuals with chronic stroke. The study hypothesized that START would have a greater effect on AOS-related measures and more severe individuals.
Method: Forty-two participants with poststroke aphasia, AOS, or both were randomly assigned to the START or control group. Both groups received 77-dB GET READY and GO cues during a word repetition task for three 1-hr sessions on consecutive days. The START group additionally received 105-dB white noise GO cues during one third of trials. The Western Aphasia Battery–Revised, Apraxia Battery for Adults, Stroke Impact Scale, and Communication Outcomes After Stroke scale were administered at Day 1, Day 5, and 1-month follow-up.
Results: START improved performance on some subtests of the Western Aphasia Battery (Comprehension, Repetition, Reading) and measures of AOS (Diadochokinetic Rate, Increasing Word Length) in individuals with moderate/severe aphasia, whereas moderate/severe controls saw no changes. Individuals with mild aphasia receiving START had improved Reading, whereas mild controls saw improved Comprehension. The START group had increased mood and perceived communication recovery by Day 5, whereas controls saw no changes in quality of life.
Conclusions: This study is the first to evaluate the impact of training with startling acoustic stimuli on clinical measures of aphasia and AOS. Our findings suggest START can enhance both nontrained speech production and receptive speech tasks in moderate/severe aphasia, possibly by reducing poststroke cortical inhibition. Our findings should be considered carefully, as our limitations include small effect sizes, within-group variability, and low completion rates for quality-of-life assessments and follow-up visits. Future studies should explore a mechanism of action, conduct larger and longer Phase 2 clinical trials, and evaluate long-term retention.
Supplemental Material S1. Example of a session for a participant in the START group.
Swann, Z., Tesman, N., Rogalsky, C., & Honeycutt, C F. (2023). Word repetition paired with startling stimuli decreases aphasia and apraxia severity in severe-to-moderate stroke: A stratified, single-blind, randomized, Phase 1 clinical trial. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 32(6), 2630–2653. https://doi.org/10.1044/2023_AJSLP-22-00296